Posted on August 9, 2021

Texas High School Principal Sees Racism in Calls to Remove Intimate Photos

Christine Hauser, New York Times, August 5, 2021

In June 2019, shortly after James Whitfield, a Black educator, was hired as the principal of a middle school in Colleyville, Texas, an administrator with the school district called and asked him to take down photos on Facebook that showed him and his wife, who is white, embracing intimately on a beach.

Puzzled why someone had dug up 10-year-old images of the couple celebrating their anniversary in Mexico, Dr. Whitfield nonetheless complied by changing the settings to “Only Me.”

But the photos have now resurfaced amid a controversy over racism that erupted in the Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District after Dr. Whitfield wrote a Facebook post on Saturday about the request. Some have publicly called for Dr. Whitfield to be fired, citing unrelated messages in which he invoked race, while others have circulated a petition in support of his work.


Dr. Whitfield said he wrote the post — the first time he has addressed his situation publicly — because he could no longer be silent after he was criticized on July 26 during a previously scheduled board meeting that was open to residents of the district, where he is now the first Black principal at Colleyville Heritage High School.


In a statement, the district did not address the July 26 meeting, at which the photographs were not raised, but it said the request to remove them in 2019 was meant to provide a “smooth transition” just as Dr. Whitfield was preparing to lead Heritage Middle School.

“When a social media concern is brought to the attention of the district, we have a responsibility to review it,” it said. “Some of the photos the district received contained poses that are questionable for an educator, especially a principal or administrator. It had absolutely nothing to do with race.”



Some speakers who identified themselves as parents complained of a “social justice” focus in the curriculum or criticized “political activism” concerning race in the district, which includes most of Grapevine and Colleyville, as well as other parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. {snip}

The only person to mention the principal by name at the forum was a man introduced as Stetson Clark, who said he and “many” others were concerned about the “implementation of critical race theory in our district,” which he said aligned with “the views and goals” of Dr. Whitfield.

He said he was “first made aware of Mr. Whitfield’s extreme views on race” when a friend shared a letter written by Dr. Whitfield that was sent to parents and students last year that he said showed the principal was concerned about systemic racism, which Mr. Clark described as a “conspiracy theory.”

{snip} As shouts of “fire him” erupted from the audience, Mr. Clark pressed on, saying Dr. Whitfield’s letter was “encouraging all members of our community to become revolutionaries by becoming antiracists.”


In his July 31 Facebook post, Dr. Whitfield responded to some of the criticisms. He said he had sent a message to parents and students about Mr. Floyd’s murder, which took place about a week after he became principal. The message said Mr. Floyd “added to the ever-growing list of Black Americans who have lost their lives because of the color of their skin.”

{snip} Dr. Whitfield said he has quoted from “A Fool’s Errand,” a book by the founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and for his support of the Southern Poverty Law Center.